Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memoir: Fast Forward

We're remembering games at the Red Dress Club this week...

Jess and I scurried to the back seat of the bus, our backpacks bumping our backsides with each step.

She wrinkled her nose at the end-of-the-school day blending--spoiled milk and fourth-grade boy.  I caught a quick glance at her rubber bracelets, stacked up her arms just right, then looked away.

"Hey," she said, "Let's play MASH." She grabbed a piece of paper from her Trapper Keeper and wrote the familiar letters atop a box.

I smiled, and watched her set up the pattern. Her handwriting had taken on a decidedly bubbly quality, all soft arches and rainbows. All the girls wrote like that now. I wonder if they had a Secret Handwriting Meeting in the bathroom one day.

I had tried to mimic it, but everything I scrawled was childish. Decidedly not cool.

Jess finished, and began the game. "Four cars."

I knew what I was supposed to say, "Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bug, and--"

Jess squealed, and lifted up a finger. "Wait! Let me choose the last one!" She smiled to herself, and scribbled her choice on the sheet.

"Okay," she said, "Jobs. Same thing. You pick three and I'll pick one."

This was by far my favorite part of the game. I thought about jobs, no careers, all the time. "Doctor, Veterinarian, or Movie Director."

She wrote each down. Her pen poised in the air, she gazed from my lanky ponytail to my K-Mart sneakers. "Perfect," she mumbled as she wrote down her pick.

"Now the best part," she grinned. "BOYS!"

I blushed. I cleared my throat, and said the names from the script, "Tom Cruise, Michael J. Fox, and Kirk Cameron."

She frowned. "Nancy, don't you like any real boys?"

I forced myself to meet her gaze. I wanted to tell her the truth--No. Not yet. Instead, I whispered the safe bet, the scripted response, "Jason." Everybody liked Jason.

She sighed, perhaps in the sheer dreaminess of his name. "Good choice." Her eyes narrowed, "I'm going to tell him you like him!"

My face flooded with red shame. "Noooooooo! Ohmygosh, PLEASE don't! I'll do anything."

She laughed, "You're so predictable." She giggled, and wrote down her selection. "This is so funny."

"Yeah," I said, "So funny." I watched the landscape, morphing into blurs of brown and green between bus stops. We stopped and started as if on fast forward.

We did the normal numbers of children: 1, 2,3, and a ludicrous number. She starting drawing a spiral: "Say stop."

"Stop." She counted the lines to make the magic number, then began the process of counting and deleting.

She cackled to herself and she planned my future. "Oh, this is totally perfect."

I nodded and turned back to the window. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Her scratching on the paper was like mice, gnawing, nibbling away.

I loved her and hated her.

"Okay, here we go." Jess beamed. I squinted.  "You live in a house, you have two kids, your job's being a mom, and you drive a station wagon!"

I sighed. Not a life I would choose. But at least I wasn't living in a shack with 200 children with Kirk Cameron. While driving a Lamborghini.

Jess shook with laughter, "Do you know who you married?"

I shook my head, waiting. Dreading.

"Mr. Baker!" She snorted, "You and Mr. Baker luuuuuuuuv each other!"

My insides curdled, thick and pungent. "No way!" Mr. Baker, the music teacher. He of the dandruff and ever-present ukelele? "Gross!"

The bus screeched to the next stop. My stop. I picked up my backpack and hissed, "That will never, ever happen!"

She laughed, "We'll see!"

It wasn't until the bus pulled away that I let the tears fall. I didn't need MASH to see my future. Jess would not be my friend much longer. She was pulling away, fast-forwarding to a new life.

PS--I'm at stay-at-home-mom, with two children. I live in a house, and yes, I drive a wagon. An Outback, but still, it's a wagon. MASH is terrifyingly accurate. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Playing in the Mud and Making More Birthdays

Yesterday, I played in the mud. And it was glorious.

I participated in the Maryland Warrior Dash, a three mile cross-country race with obstacles, including swinging tires, a rope lader, barbed wire, a wet slide, fire, and yes, a mud pit.

I told friends that if they donated money to Relay for Life, I would wear whatever they wanted on a t-shirt.
This says, "Tiger Blood Fueled Rapture Survivalist."

I ran as much as I could, although I was often knee-deep in mud.

Paul said I should have been swimming in it. Mud pit fail.

This is water, not beer. It was 9:30 in the AM. I waited until 10.

Another thing I did this weekend was become a member of the National Marrow Donor Program. A former co-worker of mine is fighting Leukemia, and he needs a bone marrow transfusion. His family members are sadly,  not matches. 

I had the four corners of my mouth swabbed, and I am now a member of the registry. My records are available for anybody needing a bone marrow transplant until I am 61 years old. I may be called tomorrow. I may be called in five years. I might never be called.

But if I am? It will make all the difference in the world. Please consider joining the Be The Match registry. It's free, it's quick, and it can create many more birthdays for some lovely people.

So, how was your weekend?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Promise and Sparkle

I was in a world-class funk last week. It happens, periodically. Everything feels heavier, and life loses its promise and sparkle for me.

On Friday, I went to Target, killing time before picking Owen up from a field trip. To combat the sparkle issue, I purchased four dollar earrings---three of them actually. Fake diamonds, fake pearls, and fake studs.

I also picked up The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  If you're not familiar, it's a woman's attempt to uncover some of the secrets of happiness by field-testing theories by philosophers and experts. I'm not done yet, but I'm finding a lot of practical advice.

One thing she mentioned was energizing your space by reducing clutter. And so I organized a drawer.

And another. And another. I mercilessly tossed the clutter, and learned that nobody, not even a Marylander, needs four cans of Old Bay.

I bought file boxes, and made a hanging file for each year of my sons' lives. I finally have a place for the certificates and assorted crafts that their wives will appreciate some day.

There is a joy knowing, with absolute certainty, that an item is home. That it belongs. That amidst the highs and lows of hormones and serotonin---those chemicals that can humble a person---at least the markers all have caps. The colors will still sing on the page.

When I sat down to write this, I spent a few moments looking for the camera cord to download the pictures I took of my new clean spaces, so full of promise and light.

I couldn't find it anywhere. It was lost.

And instead of crying or stewing or just giving up, I took blurry photos with my phone, and laughed. What are ya gonna do?

I guess there's something to the whole de-cluttering thing.. Empty spaces, surprisingly enough, can fill a person right up.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Winning the Blogging Lottery

This Monday, I won the blogging lottery. I am guest posting for two women whom I admire immensely.

Cam of Move Over Mary Poppins is a baker, mother, nanny, and writer extraordinaire. I met her through The Red Dress Club. Each week, I read her fiction and lose myself. She is so good, people. Please stop by and read my guest post, and then stick around for an hour or two. If you need a place to start, read her stories about Sam and Will. 

Nichole, of In These Small Moments, is another friend from The Red Dress Club. More specifically, she is one of the leaders of this virtual writing community. Nichole has one of the most giving hearts. Her comments are so kind.. Her writing is ethereal. Her mission to capture the daily moments of wonder is inspiring. I am honored to post a small moment involving my Owen. Please stop by, and then lose yourself in her site as well. Recent favorites of her include Always, and Yours joys so much greater...

To summarize:
My guest post for Cam? HERE
My guest post for Nichole? HERE

Please spread the love, if you can.

Comments Off.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A New Path

I saw him emerge from behind a green hill. He ran his hand through his hair, and then dug his hand into his jacket pocket.

I recognized him instantly.

Adrift in a sea of mini-vans, he paced. Our eyes locked. I was there for preschool pick-up, a thrice weekly ritual of hugs and tempura paint masterpieces.

Perhaps he once created mysteries on paper as well. Perhaps he sang quietly to himself, and his mother pinned his work to the wall. But many years and many hidden bottles later, he was simply looking for a meeting. 

I clasped my younger son's hand, and walked across the parking lot. "Excuse me, sir? May I help you?"

I stepped closer, and he cleared his throat, " I'm looking for the friends of Bill?" He squinted in the spring sunshine. The sun lit the tips of his hair from behind.

I nodded. "Sure," I smiled, and pointed him to another building, "They've changed location."

"Thank you, sister," he said. "I appreciate it."

And before I could say another word, he was gone.

But if I could say more, I would tell him that he was brave.

I would tell him that my grandfather came to my mother's rehearsal dinner drunk. Then, a few years later, died in a bar. He never was able to stand in a parking lot, powerless and seeking.  I never knew him. 

I would have told that man there is nothing more beautiful than a redemption song, and I could hear the first notes, right in that parking lot.

I said nothing. Instead, I sent him in the right direction.. By far, the greatest thing I did that day.

For the Red Dress Club memoir prompt, we were asked to describe a time when we felt proud of ourselves. Concrit is welcome.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Seven: A Twisted Green Story

Some people are green because they are kind, loving people. They see that they are small grains of sand in our global mandala---inestimable, yet mighty.

And then there are people like me. My green tendencies come from a selfish, self-serving place. I am green not because I nestle in the bosom of Mother Earth, but because it makes my life easier. In fact, my green tendencies link to the Seven Deadly Sins

Lust: Nothing is hotter than a man that cleans. Especially when he cleans with simple items that smell good----hot water and tea tree oil work well on countertops, and as a bonus, don't smell like ass.

I also love anything Mrs. Meyers makes or does.

So, the secret to hitting the sheets with me? Clean them first. Bom chicka wah wow! (No, Mrs. Meyers did not pay me for this.)

Gluttony: Food. I'm a fan. And local food is so much better than food shipped from afar. It just is.
 Last year, we participated in a CSA (Community Share Agriculture). Every other week (we shared with another family), we got a basket full of organic vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. 'Twas lovely. This year, we're electing to try our own garden, pick fruit at local farms, and visit the farmer's market.

My farmer's market has free wine tasting. This had everything to do with this decision.

If you are interested in looking for local food options, including CSAs, farmer's markets, and co-ops, visit

I must add that my brother-in-law just started beekeeping, so we will be getting honey from him as well. The laws of cuteness specify that I must post this picture of my son in a bee suit.

Greed: My genetic disposition as a German Lutheran makes me cheap as hell to begin with. Thankfully, being cheap means that I create less waste. I don't buy anything new. Especially toys. People are always unloading them, and they are usually in great condition. On more than one occasion, I have wrapped up other people's cast-offs and put them under our Christmas tree. The kids don't care. At all.

Visit your local thrift shop or consignment store. Check out or similar sites. No need to buy for the sake of buying. Really.

Plus, that's more money for important things, like pedicures. 

Sloth: Most of my green tendencies come from my sloth. A short list:

1) We compost because I don't like driving to the dump all the time. Or walking all the way over to the trash can to throw away my food scraps.

2) I wash everything in cold water because it's impossible for my kids to mess up doing the laundry that way.

3) I use rags and cloths for cleaning, wiping, and everything else instead of paper towels. That way, my kids can wash them for me and I don't have to schlep to the store as often to buy paper towels.

Wrath: Litter makes me angry because---seriously, people? We live minutes from the Chesapeake, in a lovely forest. Why throw your Hardee's leftovers out of your car? To keep from exploding in rage, I have my sons pick up litter for me when we go on walks. I even equip them with bags.

Envy: I am envious, at times, of the lovely homes of most all of my friends. We are still on our "starter home." I tell myself that by having only 1200 square feet to heat and/or cool, we are reducing our carbon footprint in that regard. Also? Less for my children to clean.
Get to work, kid.

Pride: I do get puffed up on my lazy, selfish greenness at times. I have been known to fish out recyclables from friends' trashcans during playdates, explaining that the items are "for crafts at my kid's school." Liar, Liar pants on fire.

So, in total disclosure, here remains my green bugaboo:

I love 'em. I do. Especially in cold and flu season, I adore a clean swipe, and the feeling of germs weeping under my mighty hand.

I thought about composting the wipes, but a wise friend asked, "Would you pour bleach into your garden?" Probably not.

So, I need to either spend the money on the fancy Method wipes or find another way. Suggestions? I come to you humbly, one sinner to another.

I must thank the lovely Erin Margolin for inspiring me to share my greenness. Really, I've learned so much from her. More importantly, she is lovely and I will do her bidding. Go check her out, because she has shared so many good ideas about the green life.